Thursday 4 August 2022

A Vaughan Williams Anthology: Tony Cooper reviews Naxos' eight-disc box set

A Vaughan Williams Anthology: Tony Cooper reviews Naxos' eight-disc box set
Ralph Vaughan Williams was one of England’s most illustrious composers and this specially curated selection of works issued as an 8-cd box-set anthology by NAXOS clearly demonstrates the sheer breadth of the composer’s achievements offering a rewarding and fitting legacy punctuating the composer’s 150 celebrations of 2022

1. Symphony No.1 (A Sea Symphony). Joan Rodgers (soprano), Christopher Maltman (baritone). Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, cond. Paul Daniel.
2. Symphony No.2 (A London Symphony) / The Wasps Overture. Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, cond. Kees Bakels.
3. Symphonies Nos. 5 and 9. Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, cond. Kees Bakels.
4. Fantasia on Greensleeves / Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis / Norfolk Rhapsody No.1 in E minor / In the Fen Country / Concerto Grosso. New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, cond. James Judd.
5. The Lark Ascending / Suite of Six Short Pieces for Piano / The Solent / Fantasia. Jennifer Pike (violin), Sina Kloke (piano). Chamber Orchestra of New York, cond. Salvatore di Vittorio.
6. Phantasy Quintet / String Quartets Nos.1 & 2. Maggini String Quartet, Garfield Jackson (viola).
7. Willow-Wood (a cantata for baritone and orchestra) / The Sons of Light / Toward the Unknown Region / Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus. Roderick Williams (baritone). Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir, cond. David Lloyd-Jones.
8. Sacred Choral Music including Mass in G minor. The Choir of Clare College Cambridge, James McVinnie and Ashok Gupta (organ), cond. Timothy Brown. 

As a major 20th-century symphonist, Vaughan Williams - one of England’s most illustrious and well-respected composers and a well-known figure in Norwich attending meetings of the Norfolk & Norwich Triennial Festival in the 1930s - is represented in NAXOS’ 8-cd box-set anthology (marking the RVW 150 celebrations of 2022) by four critically acclaimed recordings of his nine symphonies comprising No.1 (A Sea Symphony) by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Chorus under Paul Daniel featuring Joan Rodgers (soprano) and Chistopher Maltman (baritone) while No.2 (A London Symphony) and Nos.5 & 9 are also by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under Dutch conductor, Kees Bakels.

Popular orchestral works are also included, too, such as the celebrated Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra under James Judd and The Lark Ascending featuring Jennifer Pike (violin) while The Solent and Six Short Pieces for Piano featuring German pianist Sina Kloke are performed by the Chamber Orchestra of New York under Salvatore Di Vittorio. The Maggini String Quartet are nicely boxed in there, too, playing the second and third string quartets plus the Phantasy Quintet with guest violist, Garfield Jackson.

And the sublime Mass in G minor - a work showing Vaughan Williams’ absorbing interest in using the modal harmonic language and contrapuntal textures of the English late Renaissance to achieve a huge emotional and dynamic range - gets a gallant performance by the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, under Timothy Brown, whose assistant at one time was David Dunnett, currently organist at Norwich Cathedral.

In many ways, Ralph Vaughan Williams (whose parents were not convinced that he was talented enough to pursue a musical career) could well be described a ‘Norfolk man’ inasmuch as when Sir Henry Wood took charge of the Norfolk & Norwich Triennial Festival (at the helm from 1908 to 1930) he broadened the range of orchestral music and persuaded many young English composers to perform and conduct their own compositions in Norwich.

Interestingly, one of these young composers was none other than Ralph Vaughan Williams who thereafter regularly visited Norwich while his widow and second wife, Ursula, attended the N&N Triennial meetings of 1979 and 1982, curated by Norman Del Mar, keeping good company with Shirley, Lady Beecham and gin and tonic!

Maestro Wood, in fact, was the first to conduct Vaughan Williams’ Sea Symphony in St Andrew’s Hall, Norwich, following the work’s première at the Leeds Festival in 1910 while music for the ballet, Job - A Masque for Dancing (a N&N Triennial commission) received its world première at the 1930 Triennial meeting in the same venue.

And when Sir Thomas Beecham arrived to take charge of the 1936 Triennial, Vaughan Williams’ Five Tudor Portraits (another N&N Triennial commission) received its world première. In fact, to celebrate the N&N Festival’s 250th anniversary this year, a rare performance of Five Tudor Portraits was performed by the Norwich Philharmonic Chorus (chorus master: David Dunnett) and the Britten Sinfonia, led by violinist Clio Gould, under the baton of William Vann. The soloists were Rebecca Afonwy-Jones (mezzo-soprano) and Dominic Sedgwick (baritone) [see Tony's review].

The sell-out concert also included Vaughan Williams’ Norfolk Rhapsody No.1 in E minor and I’m glad to see that this lovely and inviting piece is also represented in the box-set anthology and given a splendid performance, too, by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra under James Judd.

A nice quartet of works by Vaughan Williams (Willow-Wood, a cantata for baritone and orchestra featuring Roderick Williams, The Sons of Light, Towards the Unknown Region and Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus) are brilliantly performed by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir, conducted by David Lloyd-Jones, stamping the seal of approval, I feel, on this ‘must-have’ RVW 8-cd box-set anthology in which to remember (and recall) the 150 celebrations of 2022 of this well-loved English composer. What a treat! A nice treat, though, would have been the inclusion of Five Tudor Portraits. But you cannot have everything you want in life!

Historical note: Norwich originally shared its festival on a triennial basis with Leeds and Birmingham in the same way that the Three Choirs Festival rotate to this very day between the cathedral cities of Hereford, Gloucester and Worcester.

Further information from the Naxos website.

Never miss out on future posts by following us

The blog is free, but I'd be delighted if you were to show your appreciation by buying me a coffee.

Elsewhere on this blog

  • Black, el Payaso: Pablo Sorozábal's engaging operetta gets its UK premiere in an enterprising production by Cervantes Theatre at Grimeborn - opera review
  • Handel’s Alcina - a ‘first’ for Glyndebourne - joins other great Handel gems in the company’s repertoire such as Ariodante, Giulio Cesare, Rinaldo and Theodora - opera review
  • Finely poetic: Ernest Chausson's early Piano Trio alongside works by his contemporary, Eugene Ysaÿe - record review
  • Riotous comedy & humanity: Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore at West Green House Opera - opera review
  • Serious SongsJess Dandy & Martin Roscoe in Schubert, Brahms, Wolf, Strauss at Wigmore Hall - concert review
  • South Pacific: Stupendous performances from Julian Ovenden & Gina Beck head this striking new version of Rodgers & Hammerstein's classic - music theatre review
  • Little Women & after: I chat to composer Mark Adamo about the UK premiere of his opera & more - interview
  • Welcome to L'isola di Alcina: Glyndebourne's first production of Handel's opera - opera review
  • French-style elegance, Italian lyricism and virtuosity: Adrian Butterfield in Leclair's violin sonatas - record review
  • Prom 14: Flavours of late romanticism, Yamada and the CBSO in Rachmaninov and Ethel Smyth - concert review
  • Sit back and enjoy: London Early Opera's engagingly virtuosic performance of Handel's pasticcio, Caio Fabbricio - record review
  • More than just sisterhood: Mark Adamo's Little Women finally gets its UK premiere in Ella Marchment's imaginative production at Opera Holland Park - opera review
  • Home

No comments:

Post a Comment

Popular Posts this month